On Saturday 20 April, the Ireland Branch of the IGRS held its Annual General Meeting (see below) and hosted an interesting and informative lecture on Church of Ireland vestry records. The lecture was delivered by Dr Maighréad Ní Mhurchadha who edited The Vestry Records of the Parish of St Audoen, Dublin, 1636–1702.
Dr Ní Mhurchadha began by admitting that she was not a trained genealogist, but anyone listening to her talk would agree that this hardly mattered, so great was the wealth of her knowledge. She began by explaining what a vestry was: they started in pre-reformation times and function much like both a local county council and a Catholic parish council.
Under Tudor rule, their functions expanded greatly to include local government, care of orphans, education, and even road building, fire fighting and public lighting! This extended role in the community means that records of Catholics appear in vestry minute books.
To date, six volumes of vestry records have been published by Four Courts Press in conjunction with the Representative Church Body library, who hold most of the extant records. Some further records remain in local custody, particularly for the later 18th and 19th centuries.
To have access to records surviving from this period is a great boon. However, this early date coupled with the fact that they are largely records of the Church of Ireland congregation, means that they will have limited value for many people tracing their Irish ancestors.
The sort of records we see in vestry minute books include: collection lists for the parish cess (tax), records of payments to tradesmen and craftspeople for work done in churches or the wider community, and records of pew allocation, which could be leased, purchased or assigned – an excellent indicator of wealth and status.
The lecture concluded with some questions from the floor.
Earlier, the Ireland Branch of the IGRS held their annual general meeting. It was extremely well-supported with approximately 50 members in attendance. Chairman Máire MacConghail led the meeting and reports were delivered from the honourary secretary, Linda Clayton, and the treasurer, Edward Rowland. A small number of questions from the floor followed and the meeting wrapped up in 40 minutes with details of upcoming events: the Open Day on 25 May, and the summer outing on 15 June, likely to be to East Clare. Details will follow in due course.
Report from Claire Bradley.